DENVER - For a couple weeks now, the Flyers have been whirling about in a cycle of calamity. They play well one night, poorly the next. They win and they lose.
Friday's 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche represented the fourth time in eight games the Flyers had failed to win consecutively, dating to Nov. 21 at Carolina.
The win-lose-win-lose cycle continued with Friday's defeat. But the cycle that really matters - how the team plays one game to the next - finally ended, as the Flyers played two overall games in a row during their mini road trip.
Consecutive 60-minute efforts have been as rare as sightings of UFOs over the Comcast tower.
"All night, I thought everybody played hard," said Danny Briere, who scored the Flyers' lone goal Friday, on a second-period power play.
"We played a team that played extremely well defensively," Briere said. "The effort was there. It was a solid effort for 60 minutes. We didn't back down. We kept coming. We were in the game to the end."
Briere called the Avalanche game a turning point, the game that "breaks the cycle."
"It was a solid effort," he said. "We could have been rewarded for the game we played, but give them credit, as well."
The Avalanche's winning goal came from Milan Hejduk on a power play in the final three seconds of the second period, an unpardonable sin in hockey. Never give up a goal in the final minute of a period.
The goal was not without controversy. Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were both on the ice for the draw in the right defensive circle, to goalie Jose Theodore's left. Richards is the Flyers' best face-off man and ranks among the league leaders. Carter is a righthander, Richards a lefty.
Carter lost the draw and Ryan Smyth made a nice, blind backhand pass into the slot to Hejduk for the goal that broke the tie and won the game.
Coach John Stevens gives his players ownership in these situations, allowing them to make the call. Former coach Ken Hitchcock would have picked the player to take the face-off against the Avs' Paul Stastny.
"It was on Cart's strong side," Richards said. "At that point, we both decided for him to go take it. When you have two centermen, you can cheat a little more. But Stastny is pretty good on the draw. You can't blame Cartsy. It's one of those things, 50-50."
Indeed, the Flyers can build off this loss as they prepare for Tuesday's visit by Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"I thought we played well; we battled really hard," Richards said. "It came down to special teams. They had a power-play goal and we had a power-play goal."
Richards had a shorthanded breakaway early in the second period, but Theodore blunted his shot with a pad stop.
"I should have buried it on the breakaway," Richards said. "That could have turned the whole momentum of the hockey game."
After looking shaky in a 4-1 loss to Dallas in his last start, Flyers goalie Marty Biron had a strong game with 30 saves.
It's never easy breaking a cycle that spins for weeks on end. Kimmo Timonen said it's going to take time to find the right chemistry. There were 14 faces on the ice Friday who weren't in the lineup a year ago.
"We have to find a level where we play consistent," Timonen said. "We can't play one good game and suck the next game. You won't make the playoffs that way. We have been talking about that a lot. The way we won in Minnesota, we could win a lot of games playing like that. It's a learning process, too. We have a lot of new guys.
"Coming together and playing the same way is not easy. It's not a 10-game process. It takes time. We still have a lot to learn. But finding that consistent level is the key. If we do that, we'll be fine."